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How to Keep Art Safe During Natural Disasters

How to Keep Art Safe during Natural Disasters

Keep Art Safe During Natural Disasters

You’ve spent a lot of time — and probably a great deal of money — compiling that beautiful art collection you’re so proud to show off to your visitors. But here’s a sobering thought: A natural disaster such as an earthquake could destroy your pieces in a matter of seconds.  If you’re a museum curator or art gallery owner, this type of event is not only disastrous to your collection, it could lead to the end of your livelihood. Though these events are unlikely for most of us, fires, floods, and earthquakes do happen. Planning ahead, particularly for your most valuable items, can save a lot of heartache and loss.

If your collection includes extremely valuable or sentimental items, consider displaying them in an enclosed pedestal or case. Materials such as acrylics or more durable products can not only protect your art from dust and curious fingers, but can also provide protection from smoke or debris.

Acrylic covers keep art safe from dust and curious fingers as well as smoke or some debris if the worst should occur. 
Fragile, expensive, and often sentimental; be sure to consider a plan for protecting your art against natural disasters.

What Are the Effects of Earthquakes on Art?

The impact an earthquake will have on artworks will depend on the severity. A significant seismic event that causes walls, ceilings and floors to collapse will probably destroy your collection as well — there’s little you can do to mitigate the effects of Mother Nature at her worst. However, you can certainly protect art from natural disasters that aren’t quite as severe.

Developing a Disaster Plan to Protect Your Artwork

Preparation is the key to keeping your artwork safe during a natural disaster.  

  • Conduct a comprehensive structural assessment of your building to determine areas of vulnerability.
  • If possible, relocate your pieces to areas that are more structurally sound.
  • Train your staff so they know what to do when an earthquake occurs.
  • Prioritize the pieces most important to you. Although many quakes last just a few seconds, there might still be enough time to grab a piece or two and move them to a safe storage area.
  • Never put yourself in harms way to protect your art. No matter how valuable the piece, it’s not worth risking your life.

Using Museum Putty to Secure Valuable Objects

Even some of the most well cared for works of art have been lost in earthquakes, including The Colossus of Rhodes—an enormous statute of the Greek Titan Helios—and more recently, French artist Jean L’ Homme’s painting The Forgiveness of Assisi (lost in an earthquake in Italy in 2016).

But there is a simple trick that can go a long way in keeping works of art stable in a quake.

Most professionals use museum putty—a blended rubber material—to provide some extra insurance against a quake. Also known as “earthquake putty,” museum putty can secure fragile items such as statues, pottery, antiques and collectibles without damaging their finish.

Earthquake putty is easy to use. Just roll a small amount of the material into beads and place them on the bottom of the object. Press down lightly on the item to ensure the putty adheres to the support structure or display stand.

Contact Pedestal Source for more tips on how to keep art safe during natural disasters.